Future strategy: Military brass in huddle to discuss new US wish list

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ISLAMABAD: Top military commanders are expected to hold a “special meeting” this week to consider the latest US demands, including the initiation of a full-scale operation against the Haqqani network, allegedly based in the North Waziristan Agency.

The meeting of the corps commanders, which is to be chaired by Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, comes in the backdrop of reports suggesting that the government has finally agreed to accept a longstanding US demand to carry out a military offensive in North Waziristan. However, a military official told that no such decision had been taken.

According to Reuters, humanitarian agencies active in Pakistan’s northwest have been quietly told to prepare for up to 365,000 displaced people in advance of a military offensive against North Waziristan.

The United States has long been calling for an operation, specifically targeting the Haqqani network, in North Waziristan. The killing of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad has renewed  US pressure on Pakistan to eliminate “terrorist sanctuaries” from its tribal belt. Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and top US commander Admiral Mike Mullen held extensive discussions with the senior Pakistani civilian and military leaders to defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The US administration placed on the table certain demands seeking action against militant leaders, including Sirajuddin Haqqani, who heads the deadliest militant group fighting Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Secretary Clinton told reporters at a news conference in Islamabad that Pakistan has agreed to take “specific actions” to show its commitment in the fight against terror. However, she did not elaborate what specific measures Pakistan would undertake in days ahead. “All these issues will be debated in the corps commanders meeting,” said another military official.

He also indicated that a detailed statement is expected to be released after the meeting, clarifying the government’s position on certain issues, including the North Waziristan operation.

“There is a lot being said in the media and you will get our response very soon,” the official added.

He added that Pakistan alone will decide the timing of the North Waziristan operation. “We have more troops in North Waziristan than any other tribal agency but we need to take into account several factors before launching a military offensive there,” the official added. “The Americans certainly want us to do it sooner than later.” But the real question is to analyse the repercussions of the North Waziristan offensive, he added.

“All people in North Wazir­istan are anti-American but do all of them pose a threat to the US interests,” he asked, saying that it was a fundamental issue the US is not ready to understand it. However, some officials did not rule out the possibility of a surgical operation in the tribal agency.

Meanwhile in the background briefing for a select group of journalists, senior defence officials said a Swat-like national consensus was required to launch an assault in North Waziristan.

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